Minnesota’s Health Systems Ramp Up Covid Testing
Photo courtesy of HealthPartners

Minnesota’s Health Systems Ramp Up Covid Testing

The state’s health care systems are preparing to meet the governor’s “moonshot” number of 20,000 Covid-19 tests per day.

With testing vital to the state’s plan to address Covid-19, the state’s largest health systems are ramping up testing capacity.

HealthPartners next week will begin perfoming 2,000 tests a day. The health system also will open two drive-up testing locations in St. Louis Park and White Bear lake, in addition to its testing sites in Plymouth, Lakeville, St. Paul, Stillwater, Hutchinson, and Olivia, where capacity has also been increased. The expansion has been a coordinated, widespread effort with the state and other healthcare groups, said HealthPartners regional medical director Susan Scanlon.

“It’s just been a huge effort to get us in a position to reach our goal of 2,000 tests across our system, starting next week,” she said.

All symptomatic patients are able to seek testing, she said; they simply need to undergo a brief screening and make an appointment for the drive-through testing.

“You only have to be symptomatic. We would welcome patients who are new to the system to have drive-up testing in our group,” Scanlon said. “After the nasopharyngeal swab is collected at the drive up testing site, patients should receive their results within 48 hours.”

The only limitation for the drive-through tests is that infants three months and under must be tested in a face-to-face setting at one of HealthPartners’ respiratory sites due to their unique risk factors.

M Health Fairview also aims to expand its testing capabilities.

“M Health Fairview is working quickly to ramp up Covid-19 testing as part of the statewide testing strategy we helped develop. However, continued supply limitations require us to currently prioritize testing for certain high-risk or symptomatic individuals,” the health organization said in a prepared statement.

In the next few weeks, Allina Health will increase testing, too. It aims to hit 1,000 collections per day by next week, and then 2,000 test collections per day one to two weeks later, according to Heather Dawson, vice president at Allina Health Laboratory Services.

“The goal for all of us, at least for the 10 health systems, is to roughly do about 2,000 tests a day, and that gets us to the 20,000 a day mark,” she said.

Gov. Walz’s recently announced “moonshot” testing number is 20,000 tests per day, and is key to his plan to address the pandemic.

Right now, Allina is increasing hours at its drive-throughs and is looking to expand to eight testing locations.

“Another piece of this is making sure that we have testing availability in all of the counties where we have clinics,” Dawson said.

Most of its test swabs are being sent to large reference labs for the standard polymerase chain reaction testing analysis, and will take anywhere from one to four days to process. Allina also conducts over 100 in-house tests a day that have a turnaround of about 12 hours, but those are being utilized for admitted patients.

“Keep an eye on the Department of Health website as we open up and expand testing locations,” Dawson said. “Everyone is welcome, and we’ll get them in as time permits, and as our capabilities permits.”

Allina is also testing all symptomatic patients and is following a screening and scheduling process.

“The goal is to make sure that we can plug the gaps and provide as much coverage across the state as possible. And that’s something that will all work together on,” Dawson said.

Testing locations are available throughout the state, and can be looked up by city and county on the MDH website.

“The CARES Act requires that Covid-19 testing is covered without cost-sharing,” the MDH website reads. “This applies to all health insurance coverage in Minnesota. It is important to know that this applies to the test only; office visits are not covered through the CARES Act. Some insurance carriers have agreed to waive cost-sharing for in network visits associated with the Covid-19 test.”

The MDH also reminds people to check their coverage with their insurance company.